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Sylvia Waters

Artistic Director Emerita, Ailey II

Sylvia Waters was personally selected by Alvin Ailey in 1974 as Artistic Director of Ailey II and led the company for 38 years. She attended The Juilliard School, where she worked with Donald McKayle’s company, and with a young Hava Kohav—who later became an actress and Academy Award nominee—performing very often to widely populated audiences of the entire New York Dance community at the YMHA. After receiving her B.S. from Juilliard, she moved to Paris, where she appeared regularly on television. She toured in the European company of Black Nativity and worked with Michel Descombey, then director of the Paris Opera Ballet, as well as Milko Šparembleck. She also performed in Donald McKayle's European production of Black New World and worked with Maurice Béjart’s company performing in Brussels and at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City. In 1968, Ms. Waters joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and toured with the Company until assuming leadership of Ailey II. She has received honorary doctorates from the State University of New York at Oswego and The Juilliard School, and she has served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts. Ms. Waters is a recipient of the Legacy Award as part of the 20th Annual IABD Festival, Syracuse University’s Women of Distinction Award, a Dance Magazine Award, and a “Bessie” Award.